Simulated responses of moose populations to browsing-induced changes in plant architecture and forage production

John Pastor, Nathan R. De Jager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We and others have previously shown that browsing by large mammalian herbivores can alter the fractal dimension and other architectural properties of plant crowns. Using data from an experiment in northern Sweden which manipulated moose population densities from 0 to 50 moose per 1000 ha and measured architectural responses of birch, Betula pendula and B. pubescens, and Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, we constructed a simulation model to examine how these changes in plant crown architecture affect moose population dynamics. Architectural changes in birch tree crowns caused forage availability to increase from low to moderate moose population densities, then decline at higher densities. In contrast, forage availability of pine decreased monotonically with increasing moose population density. The model, which incorporated equations fitted to these experimental results, predicted realistic moose population densities for northern Sweden. More importantly, the model also predicted that the quadratic responses of birch crowns to moose browsing results in moose population oscillations on high productivity sites because the moose population density overshoots the maximum birch forage availability then declines. Changes in the geometry of plant canopies caused by mammalian browsers and soil fertility may feed back on the population dynamics of the browsers themselves and even result in complex dynamics such as population oscillations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-582
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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